Delta Waterfowl Gains Hunter Recruitment Victory in Pennsylvania

hunters hiding under camo waiting for ducks. The sky is gray and the grass and trees looks in fall colors.

New regulations open mentored waterfowling to all ages in the Keystone State.

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — Following six years of advocacy by Delta Waterfowl’s Defending the Hunt program, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will allow waterfowling under its mentored hunting regulations. Importantly, the rule change is effective immediately, allowing properly permitted, mentored hunters of all ages to participate in the opening day of duck season — occurring Saturday, Oct. 9, in all but the Lake Erie Zone.

“This is an example of what we live for at The Duck Hunters Organization,” said Cyrus Baird, senior director of government affairs for Delta Waterfowl. “It marks a significant win for hunter recruitment and furthers our mission to secure the future of waterfowl hunting.”

Key aspects of the regulations include:

  • Mentored hunters must be accompanied within arm’s reach of a licensed mentor who is at least 21 years old and possesses all necessary permits and stamps.
  • Age restrictions and required hunter-education classes are lifted for mentored hunters.
  • Mentee must possess a mentored hunting program permit and Pennsylvania migratory game bird permit.
  • Only one firearm may be present between mentor and mentee; both may shoot.
  • Youths aged 11 and under may hunt annually with a mentored hunting program permit; anyone 12 and above may hunt with a mentored hunting program permit for up to three years, then must purchase a standard hunting license.
  • Youths aged 11 and under may hunt annually with a mentored hunting program permit; anyone 12 or above may purchase up to three mentored hunting permits, then must buy a standard hunting license.

“Every Pennsylvania chapter of Delta Waterfowl was instrumental in expressing support for mentored hunting to the PGC and mobilizing our local members,” said Matt Kneisley, Delta’s regional events director for the northeast Atlantic Flyway. “Pennsylvania has one of the richest hunting traditions in North America, and our volunteers proved it with this effort.”

Delta’s advocacy for mentored waterfowling in Pennsylvania dates to January 2015, when an action alert urged the PGC to expand mentored hunting to include waterfowl and also to reject a proposal that would’ve eliminated mentored deer and turkey hunting.

“It’s long been a priority,” Kneisley said. “We are hindered in Pennsylvania by the 12-year-old hunter age requirement. By then kids are involved in sports or playing on their cell phones or have other interests.”

A window of opportunity arose in March 2021, when the issue of mentored waterfowl hunting was discussed during a virtual meeting hosted by the PGC. In response, John Devney, Delta’s senior vice president of policy, sent a letter to all PGC staff and commissioners expressing strong support for mentored waterfowling. In tandem, a follow-up letter expressing the same sentiments was sent by Kneisley and more than 50 of Delta’s Pennsylvania volunteers.

The commissioners ultimately approved the measure, and it was passed by Pennsylvania’s General Assembly in March. The regulations became official on Sept. 10.

“I don’t think this would’ve gotten across the goal line without Delta Waterfowl and our legion of passionate volunteers,” Kneisley said. “My hat’s also off to the commissioners and staff of the Pennsylvania Game Commission for their good work and willingness to discuss mentored waterfowling with us. I’d especially like to thank Ian Gregg, PGC wildlife operations division chief, for his efforts on this important change.”

For more information, contact John Devney at (888) 987-3695 ext. 5218, jdevney@deltawaterfowl.org.

Delta Waterfowl Foundation is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and ensure the tradition of duck hunting in North America. Visit deltawaterfowl.org.